The Buccaneers had a huge opportunity on Thursday Night. The defending super bowl champs, on national TV and in your stadium. What better scenario could someone think of? The Bucs fought hard, but ultimately they fell to the New England Patriots by a score of 19-14. There were a lot of ups but also a lot of downs. Let’s see what I thought about the game.
Best of the Best
RB Doug Martin: Doug Martin’s career has been quite the roller coaster. It has featured the highs like his rookie season and his 2015 season where he went over 1000 yards rushing both times, but it has also featured the lows including injury-plagued seasons and a career-worst 2.9 average yards per carry. Not to mention his 4 game suspension for PED use at the end of last season. Martin played his first game of 2017 on Thursday Night and he looked very productive. His cuts looked crisp, his decisions looked sharp. He even got a TD on his night back. Hopefully, this Doug Martin is here to stay.
WR Desean Jackson: Desean Jackson was brought to Tampa and was paid a lot of money because of his ability to create explosive plays. Jackson has been somewhat frustrated with the ball not going his way lately but what he showed Thursday night should make him pretty happy. He caught 5 balls for 106 yards including a 41-yard catch and run late in the game. That play truly showed his dangerous speed. Let’s hope that Winston and Jackson can start connecting on the deep ball. If they can there is not a defense that will be able to stop this offense when Winston has time. Which brings me to the next good thing.
Bucs Offensive Line: Before the Buccaneers season began, I was one of the few who did not view the offensive line as a weakness, but as a strength. Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith have improved, J.R. Sweezy is healthy and Demar Dotson has limited the penalties. This line was creating time for Winston all night and opened up plenty of big holes for Doug Martin to run through. This is now the second straight week the offensive line has played good and if they can stay healthy, they should get even better.
S Justin Evans: Bucs most recent 2nd round pick, Safety Justin Evans, got his first career start on Thursday Night and what better way to start your career than to pick off the best QB of all time? Not only did he pick Brady off, he did it on the first drive of the game. He also made some solid tackles and that was his biggest issue while playing at Texas A&M. Hopefully, the rook can build off of this strong game and even stronger first impression.
Worst of the Worst
TE Cameron Brate: This is the first time that we have seen Cameron Brate on this side of the list. Last week he was one of my best of the best and now he is starting off the worst of the worst. He typically does not drop many balls. That is not what he does. However, in this game, he had a few drops including one on a great throw from Winston in the end zone which led to a missed Nick Folk field goal. Brate will rebound, but for this game, I had to put him here.
CB Vernon Hargreaves: Many fans have dubbed Bucs second-year corner Vernon Hargreaves “Mr 10 yard cushion” after his performances against the Vikings, Giants and now, the Patriots. Hargreaves has struggled this season and he has not stepped up the way Bucs fans hoped he would. He just does not look confident right now. He looks so scared to get burned deep and that is why he is giving the receivers he is facing that much cushion. He just needs to be confident about his ability to do what he does best and that is make plays on the ball. Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola seemed to have their way when facing Hargreaves and now every team that the Bucs face will be sure to target number 28 until he plays better.
K Nick Folk: Kickers get paid to get kick. When you get paid to do something you should be able to do that certain thing. Nick Folk had a miserable night in Tampa as he missed all 3 of his field goal attempts including an unacceptable miss from 31 yards. An NFL kicker has to make that kick and even if Folk hits 2 of his field goals, the Bucs could very well be 3-1 right now. They brought in many kickers on Monday and ended up signing former Buc Patrick Murray. I have been pounding the table for Murray for the last year or so. He was very consistent as a Buc and hopefully he gives the Bucs the answer they are looking for.
(EDITOR’s Note: This was done. Folk to IR. Murray to Lockerroom)
To sum it all up, the Bucs did not play horrible but did not play well enough. Winston needs to get off to better starts, the defense needs more pressure and the kickers need to make their kicks. The missed kicks were able to pass against a bad team like the Giants but a good team like the Pats will burn you for it. The Bucs should be getting Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, and TJ Ward back to play the Cardinals in a very important game this weekend.